‘UK’s first vertical launch spaceport’ underway


Construction of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport has begun in the Scottish Highlands.

Ground breaking ceremony for the Sutherland Spaceport.
Credit: Orbex.

‘Sutherland Spaceport’ will be the new home of Forres-based rockets manufacturer, Orbex, which will use the site for its satellite launching projects. 

The company plans to launch up to 12 orbital rockets a year from the site, for the deployment of satellites into the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Civil engineering firm, Jacobs, will be leading the construction of the site and further engineering services once the facility is open.  

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week, and Orbex has yet to determine the date of completion and first mission.  

Full scope 

Orbex secured planning permission for Sutherland Spaceport, formerly Space Hub Sutherland, in 2021. 

Jacobs earmarked the location in November 2022, a peat-rich area near the village of Tongue. 

The firm will oversee: 

  • Design. 
  • Procurement. 
  • Management of the local supply chain. 

It’s long-term deal with Orbex will see Jacobs provide: 

  • Spaceport operations support. 
  • Operations consultancy. 
  • Engineering services.

The facility intends to be the first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world in its construction and operation. 

The peat excavated from the site will be re-used to repair surrounding areas of damaged peatland. 

The firm signed a 50-year sub-lease with the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) that allows them to direct construction and assume full management of the facility. 

Orbex aims to gain the support of local crofters who live and work on the land. 


The firm attracted public funding from: 

  • HIE and Scottish Government: £9 million. 
  • The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: £3 million.
  • The UK Space Agency: £2.55 million. 

Social value: The spaceport expects to create around 250 jobs in the Highlands and Islands and generate over £1 billion in gross value added (GVA) for the region in the next 30 years. 

Jacobs prior work 

Jacobs is the main service provider for NASA, being the prime contractor for NASA’S Exploration Ground Systems Program at Kennedy Space Center. 

The firm also led the £2 million decommissioning work at a nuclear site in Dounreay. 

On the spaceport, Andy White, vice president at Jacobs said, “As an investor in Orbex, Jacobs is deeply committed to supporting this key project which is of immense importance to the UK’s fast growing space sector.” 

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